Interview: Susur Lee’s Winter Cooking Tips
Toronto chef Susur Lee is known for balancing the epicurean traditions of China with classic French cuisine to world-wide acclaim. He not only battles in the Iron Chef America kitchen stadium (where he tied with heavyweight Bobby Flay), his Susur restaurant in Toronto made the list of World’s 50 Best Restaurants. But Lee stays humble: his favourite cooking gadget comes from a hardware store, and he’ll cross the city for the perfect cup of joe.
House & Home: What new food trends are you loving?
Susur Lee: The health driven foods available on the market right now that are low carb. But you have to find the right balance, otherwise you get cold feet in winter! I eat our kale salad with Asian pear, tofu, burdock roots with sesame seed dressing year round; it’s one of most popular dishes at our restaurants too. You’ve got to use seasonal produce. This salad is so perfect in the winter, and it’s healthy.
H&H: Is there a particular ingredient you’re relying on a lot lately?
SL: I think coffee is very underused in food. You can use it to brine lamb, pork tenderloin or turkey. Using coffee and spices like ginger, cinnamon and cardamom in a marinade makes such a welcoming aroma this time of year. I use the SodaStream to marinate meat too, it makes it more juicy. A lot of people don’t think of brining meat at home. You can use whatever spice you like, if you like pepper you can add a black pepper tonic reduction. The key is the soda bubbles break down the muscle and fattiness of the meat, so it becomes more tender, and it helps the marinade penetrate much faster too.
H&H: Do you have a favourite special gadget?
SL: A pair of thick oven gloves is important. I use a little forked chisel from the hardware store for ice cream and sorbet. It’s great for scooping out gelato, sometimes when you take it from the freezer it’s so hard to scoop.
H&H: Fill in the blank: I can’t go a day without…
SL: When I was young I was never really keen on coffee, or thought about it. But I love the decadent richness of Ezra’s Pound, on Dupont. I am crazy about it. Sometimes they don’t get it quite right and I let them know the flavour is off!
H&H: If you could only choose one type of cuisine to eat, what would it be?
SL: It has to be Asian! I make many journeys to Singapore for my restaurant Chinois, so I am always on the look out for things I have never seen. I always discover “new” ways to cook there that are actually very ancient.
Try Susur’s fragrant Roasted Chicken Marinated With Coffee and Orange Tonic and read more exclusive interviews here.